Youth Culture Window
Sunday night get ready for one of the biggest youth culture "Dannys" of the year.
When I was growing up, a classmate of mine named Danny was quite a cultural phenomenon. Danny kept up with all the hot and current trends. Danny was the first kid with a Walkman and the first kid to go to an ACDC concert. Danny had the latest pair of Vans and the newest bright colored Converse. He was the first kid to dye his hair and always donned the latest issue of Thrasher Magazine.
If you wanted to know what was cool, or more specifically, what was becoming cool at that moment ... Danny was the kid. Danny was an indicator of what our culture was becoming, a thermometer of recent cultural trends.
But Danny was something else. Danny catalysted certain trends on our campus. He not only reflected our culture, he influenced our culture. Danny was the most current thing around, so everyone watched Danny. Kids copied Danny, because they knew that Danny "knew what was cool."
Danny reflected AND affected our culture.
This Sunday Night brings us one of the biggest "Dannys" of them all: The MTV Video Music Awards (the VMAs). The VMAs not only reflect our culture, they influence it. If Snoop Dog utters a new word when he's presenting a Moonman (MTV Video Music Awards are little statues of the MTV logo-the "Moonman") on Sunday night ... that word will fill the air on campuses around the world Monday. The same word will be in a new commercial on Nickolodeon within a month and on my SLANG DICTIONARY page in 2 months. (So ... we're a little slow!)
Last year Kaiser reported that 64% of teenagers have a TV in their bedroom and 69% have cable. Bottom line: A ton of kids are going to be tuning in to MTV this Sunday. I've even polled Christian kids in my leadership workshops across the country. Usually half or more of any given church's student leaders see the VMAs each year.
WHAT TO EXPECT THIS YEAR:
One never knows what to expect from MTV each year. In 2003 we were surprised with the Madonna & Brittany Kiss. At the Super Bowl half time show ... we saw even more!
What can we expect from this Sunday's event?
It's hard to predict where MTV will go. But I'm guessing that we will probably see three ingredients that have flavored these awards shows before.
1. Objectifying Women: Objectifying women is nothing new to hip hop and rap. But now that Rap music dominates the charts, treating women like objects is just more commonplace. (In 2004 just over 68% of American teenagers favored rap/hip hop-Kaiser. Ten of the top 12 singles in 2004 were R&B, hip hop or rap-Billboard),
Last year we saw this at the 2004 VMAs. Nelly performed an entire song with Christina Aguilera, never taking his eyes off her body the entire time. It was one of those moments you just had to witness. Immediately after the song if you would have asked him what color her eyes were ... he couldn't have told you. You think that Christina would stop and ponder, "Maybe he doesn't like me for my personality!" Little John did the same thing with the female dancers that performed with him.
And why not turn the whole show over to a role model in this area. P-diddy ... Puff Daddy ... I mean "Diddy" is hosting the VMAs this year. (Diddy has had more name changes than Prince.) Diddy has the reputation for throwing the wildest party's around, so this year MTV is advertising "the biggest and most outrageous night, hosted by the one man born to do it." If you want a sample of what he's born "to do" ... just Google his lyrics and take a peek.
But men don't even need to be on stage for women to be treated like objects ... today's female artists do just fine treating themselves that way. Just last week at the Teen Choice Awards aired on Fox, "The Pussycat Dolls" strutted around on stage singing their #2 hit "Don't Cha!" The only thing the stage was missing was some poles for them to dance around. And they strategically replaced a hip thrust where they usually drop the "f" bomb in their lyrics, "I know you should be f***ing me."
If you dare to surf your remote to MTV this week, every evening the VMA nominee videos are being shown. From Jessica Simpson, to J-Lo, to Missy Elliott ... you'll see plenty of women strutting their stuff, teaching our young girls that low cut pants and hip thrusts are what men like to see ... and if you've chaperoned a school dance in the last year, you'll see it's working!
2. Thanking God: I remember the good old days when artists like Madonna would finish rolling around stage in lingerie ... only to thank God for inspiring her. Nowadays God is thanked regularly, but some artists get even a little more specific ...
What do all three of these artists have in common? All three of them received awards at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards and/or the 2004 MTV VMAs ... and thanked their "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Usher, whose #1 hit song "Yeah" boasts the lyrics "I won't stop till I get em in they birthday suits... So gimmie the rhythm and it'll be off with they clothes..."
Outcast, whose #1 song "Hey Ya" sings "Don't want to meet your daddy, just want you in my Caddy, don't want to meet yo' mama, just want to make you c*mma"
Kanya West, whose #1 hit "Jesus Walks" almost won him "Best New Artist" at the 2004 American Music Awards. But when the "f" word spouting Kanya didn't receive it, he quickly retorted, "I felt like I was definitely robbed and I refused to give any politically correct bullsh** ass comment. I make the music from my heart ... and to be able to get 'Jesus Walks' on the radio and everything that's happening, I was the best new artist this year, so get that other bullsh** out of here."
We'll see Kanya West perform and Usher present this Sunday night. Should we expect more thanking of the powers above?
3. Corrupting the Young: Sure, MTV has been corrupting the young for years. But my heart breaks for the teenagers that will be part of that event on Sunday night. At least six different teenagers will be part of "Diddy's party" on Sunday night. Hilary Duff (17), Joss Stone (18), Bow Wow (18), Ciara (19), Ashley Simpson (19), and Lindsey Lohan (19) will all be presenting awards on Sunday.
Why does this break my heart?
Because nothing is inappropriate any more. Just last week at the Teen Choice awards, teenager Amanda Bynes presented an award with the Wayans brothers. The Teen Choice Awards brought in 14 1/2 million votes from teen voters and was watched by literally tens of millions of children, tweens and pre-teens around the world. Teenage star Amanda is known and watched by pre-teen girls around the world on shows like the creatively clean and funny "Amanda Show" on Nickelodeon. My 7 and 10 year old daughters know who she is and watch her show.
Amanda followed her script and addressed the Wayans brothers, "You taught the whole world how to scream in the 'Scary' movies. Guys, I was wondering if you would be willing to give me a private scream session?"
One of the Wayans brothers answered, "You'd have to be butt naked and over 18."
Maybe I should be happy that they seem to respect that "over 18" rule. You will be when you find out that R. Kelly was just added to the list to perform at the VMAs this Sunday. Kelly is not only one of the more popular rappers at Sunday's event, he's probably the only one who had to seek permission from a judge to be there. The singer faces child-pornography charges in his home state of Illinois.
But how taboo is it for an adult to sleep with a teen when "Desperate Housewives," one of the hottest shows on network television, has one of their star characters sleeping with her teenage gardener? Perhaps our teens aren't watching it.
At the teen choice awards last week, teens awarded the TV show Desperate Housewives three different awards. Eva Longoria won "Choice Breakout Actress" for the show. When she accepted the award, she showed a look of embarrassment and said, "Oh my God. I don't know how I feel about teenagers watching us!"
Wow- I'm actually in agreement with Eva on that one. And we'll see Eva again this Sunday presenting a Moonman.
WHO WILL BE AT THE 2005 VMAs:
Performing that night:
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT-OR MORE SPECIFICALLY-NOT DO:
R-Kelly, Mariah Carey, Green Day, Ludacris, Shakira, 50 Cent, Cold Play, The Killers, Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson
Handing out Moonmen:
Jessica Simpson, Lil' Kim, Ricky Martin, Ashlee Simpson, Bow Wow, Eva Longoria, Nelly, Hilary Duff, Joel Madden from Good Charlotte, Ciara, Alicia Keys, Usher, Jessica Alba, Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Lindsay Lohan, Joss Stone, Jeremy Piven, Snoop Dogg, Beavis & Butt-head
Nominated the Most:
Green Day is nominated for 8 awards
Gwen Stefani is nominated for 6 awards
Missy Elliott is nominated for 6 awards
U2 is nominated for 5 awards
My Chemical Romance is nominated for 4 awards
If you have kids of your own ... put em' to bed! Don't give up and think, "might as well let em' watch it." Guard your kids from this stuff.
As I said last week, be aware of this stuff, don't immerse yourself in it. This Sunday night is one of the few times I sit down and actually watch MTV. Don't make a habit of it.
And don't promote the event. It's one thing to be aware of something that kids are watching ... it's another thing to talk about something so much that it sparks an interest in the minds of kids. We don't want to become a negative "Danny" ourselves. Let's face it-it would be better if kids DON'T see this stuff.
Unfortunately ... most of them will.
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